It is the New Year! Hope springs eternal in yoga studios as new students come flocking to our spaces with firm resolutions to drink less, eat less, exercise more and become better versions of themselves.
Unfortunately, our very own attendance statistics show that by March, most of these students are just as resolute to not attend practice as they were to attend practice at the beginning of the year. We know that yoga is a beautiful medium to help everyone in the mind, body and spirit, so how can we maximize retaining these potential yogis?
In this two-part series, we will examine some strategies that can be utilized to retain a higher percentage of the New Year’s resolution students than in the past.
In this first part, we will explore understanding the New Year’s student and what we can do to peak their long-term interest in yoga beyond the physical practice, and in the second part we will explore some business strategies to assist the students in building a beneficial and long-term practice.
After all, yoga — when taught as yoga and not solely as physical fitness — is the modicum for the health and happiness of a complete human being in mind, body and spirit.
One of the biggest challenges that yoga studios face in the attraction of students is overcoming the two primary stigmas of yoga, which are that yoga is a workout regimen and that yoga is only for bendy, flexible females. This social bias is built into most new students that come into a studio during the New Year resolution period. Let’s look at these biases separately, keeping in mind that no judgment should be applied to either.
Yoga is just a workout. This is not true, and even though the student may come into the practice this New Year believing this, it is up to teachers (via studio owners) to show the differences. Ask your teachers to point this out and teach this with new students. We can educate our students to what yoga is and isn’t.
I must be flexible to practice. I hear this from a lot of new students at Ripple Yoga. Yoga is a practice that builds strength, which leads to flexibility. Students must hear this message early and often to help them overcome the built-in fear of being in a practice with more “advanced” students. In particular in our Western society, where sitting in a chair for long periods of time is so common, the body becomes inflexible due to weakness. In addition, our body stores toxins in the joints, which also cause stiffness and inflexibility.
We can see that through simple and effective communication at first contact with new students, we can teach them and hold their hand through the process that helps them change their perception of yoga, allowing them to make an informed decision about whether yoga is right for them, rather than relying on misperceptions.
In the second part to this series, we will explore how the Kleshas have an affect on the human decision-making process and how that can affect retaining new students to the beautiful practice of yoga.
Sarvesh Naagari is the owner of Ripple Yoga in Seattle, Washington, and author of the inspirational novel of the spirit, 20,000 Oms and a Cup of Chai. He has accumulated approximately 2,500 hours of teacher training, including a six-month stay at the Ananda Ashram at ICYER in Pondicherry, India, where he studied the yoga teachings of Maharishi Patanjali and Swamiji Gitananda Giri, the Lion of Pondicherry. He also has an MBA in executive management from the Washington State University and a bachelors of science, corporate finance and accounting, from the University of Maryland. Prior to opening Ripple Yoga, Sarvesh was a corporate executive for 20 years in technology and innovation. He is also a regular contributor to the Seattle Yoga News and the ClassPass blog. In his spare time, Sarvesh is an avid musician, singer, hockey player and volleyball enthusiast.